Milwaukee Bucks guard Matthew Dellavedova has endured what has been by far the most interrupted season of his basketball career. The Bucks (41-35) currently find themselves in the 7th spot the Eastern Conference playoff race, as the regular season approaches its climax. They have reached that mark mostly without the help of Dellavedova, who has suffered through multiple long layoffs this season; first with a knee strain, and currently with a severe ankle sprain suffered against the Brooklyn Nets in early February.
Before this season, Dellavedova had appeared in 291 of a possible 328 regular season games over his four year NBA career with Cleveland and Milwaukee. In 2017/18, he has only seen the floor in 37 of a possible 77 contests. That's right, he has missed more games this season alone, then he had in the previous four seasons combined.
As his return to the floor approaches, Dellavedova travelled with the Bucks on their four game west coast road trip this past week, and spoke to The Pick and Roll in Beverly Hills, before the teams contest at Staples Center that night.
"It hasn’t been much fun. My whole career I’ve been pretty healthy, which, after this, hopefully continues. But it has been frustrating. By the time I did my ankle, I feel like I was getting my legs back, I was stronger and then just stepped on somebody’s foot, its sport so that is going to happen, I’m just trying to stay busy and focus on what I can control and what I can get better at."
Jokingly, he mused, "I’ve been become a pretty good bike rider."
In the 24 game span between injuries, Dellevadova certainly displayed improved confidence, providing the steady point guard play and outside shooting he's become known for. Knocking down 38 percent of his three point attempts, he began to shake off the rust, and give the Bucks the boost they desperately needed from the second unit. Shooting the ball wasn't the only area where Delly was finding his groove, as he also began to distribute the ball efficiently, dishing 101 assists whilst only committing 28 turnovers in that stretch.
Known for his leadership on the court, adjusting to life off the court hasn't been easy for Delly, as he has been forced to come to terms with becoming strictly a voice around his Milwaukee squad.
"I’ve had more time to do that stuff because, that’s, you know, one of the main ways I can help my team right now. So I’ve definitely been trying to tell guys what I see and help them out, I think its been helping out, its been a lot better when I’m on the road with the team rather than being back at the facility just rehabbing."
The initial prognosis for return was 3-4 weeks, which would have brought a return date around the first week of March. Yet, here we are, in early April and there has been little news on the ankle and just when exactly we can expect him back. Travelling with the squad is a significant development, as it allows Dellavedova to take part in team based activities, whilst joining the team on game night on the bench. When asked how close a return might be, he revealed it could be right around the corner.
"Before playoffs, I want to get some action in, I was close to getting back, and then I aggravated it a little bit, and that set me back, but I’m trying to do as much as I can each day and just see how it pulls up."
With just six games remaining before the playoffs begin, workouts have begun to increase in intensity. At Milwaukee shoot around, both in Beverly Hills and San Francisco, Delly stayed back at their practice facility for twenty minutes after the team left. Working on his jump shot with assistant coach Josh Broghamer. In a great sign of confidence and strength in the ankle, he would shoot endless three-pointers from all angles, testing that ankle out and regaining touch.
In what has been an undoubtedly frustrating year for the 27 year old, both Delly and Bucks fans alike have their sights set on a positive ending.